Today is my father's birthday. He was born in 1908, on a humble farm in the rugged and hauntingly beautiful mountains of eastern Kentucky.
Dad would have enjoyed this day…it's sunny and warm, and everywhere spring is bursting at the seams with birdsong, dozens of wildflowers, and the vernal season's emerging greenery. The river is full and a bit discolored, but I'll bet my father would be thinking about us going bullhead fishing, and perhaps gathering a mess of dandelion greens to cook with our supper fillets afterwards.
God, how I'd love to do that with him one more time….
I fear to imagine where my life be without Dad's unstinting love and wise guidance. He taught me to value and live with courage, honor, and compassion; he introduced me to the beauty of nature and the delight of outdoor adventures; he gave me the freedom and encouragement to follow my calling; and he led me to realize that a worthwhile life needs a spiritual center.
The older I get, the more I treasure his hand in my raising.
Dad loved me with all his heart. I never doubted that fact for a single moment, even when we were at odds over something. And I always did my level best to love him back.
It has been nearly thirty-one years since my father passed away. Time has barely dulled that pain's sharp edges; the aching void remains. There's not a day goes by during which I fail to think of him—to wish I could show him something or ask a question.
Yet more than anything, I'd like to be able to simply put my arms around my father, give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and tell him how very much he meant to me.
To say, "Happy birthday, Dad! I love you, always. And I know, too, that God never blessed anyone with a better father…a gift for which I'm so very thankful. "
Last week, after months of contradictory but mostly just plain wrong banking-required compliance information, we finally managed to deposit our flood insurance refund check, while at the same time freeing up the funds so that we could actually use the money to buy materials and pay labor costs in order to begin repairs on the cottage resulting from its December 23 flooding.
It has been an arduous, angering, fatiguing, and needlessly frustrating trek through an inane maze of bureaucratic ignorance and laziness. And like so many such ordeals, was eventually solved by finally managing to talk to the right person who not only was willing to take on the responsibility of the issue and getting it completely and correctly resolved, but knew just were to look for the appropriate procedural guidelines information. In fifteen minutes, from start to finish, the cash was in our account and available, with no strings attached.
Myladylove, currently a branch manager with another financial institution—and having spent most of her professional career involved in money matters—was giddily overjoyed. I was greatly relieved to know that in the not-very-distant future, I wouldn't have to choose between committing a variety of felonies, or seeking brain-numbing asylum through the liberal consumption of alcohol. Trust me, it was coming down to one or the other.
Now, of course, the redo work can begin…that is, it can begin just as soon as the weather breaks and spring finally makes up its mind to settle in for the long haul.
Yes, we've had a couple of nice days since the equinox made the season official—including one last week in the low-70˚s F. But not lately. A couple of mornings ago the thermometer read 14˚F at breakfast time, when Moon and I stepped out for a look-see around the riverbank after I gave the dooryard pair of Canada geese their morning scoop of cracked corn. The day before that it snowed a pure blizzard—flakes swirling and blowing so thick I couldn't see the island across from the cottage. True, none of the snow stuck…but it didn't look or feel much like spring out there either. And the truth is, even our recent sunny days—few and far between as they've been—have not felt spring-like. Early crocus remain tightly furled, and hints of vernal green remain elusive.
When spring will truly come remains a mystery—just as when we'll finally be able to start setting out the sawhorses outside for cutting and painting, is anyone's guess.
Spring is here! At least officially, as an astronomical moment according to calendar and almanac. When it will actually arrive as a season, weatherwise, is another matter entirely, given how THE WINTER WHICH REFUSES TO LEAVE is still having its way with some parts of the country.
Here along the river, we've had snow within the last week. We've also been treated to rain, wind, clouds, and a sunny day that made it into the upper-60˚s F. I'm still keeping a fire in the woodstove more often than not.
To look outside right now you'd sure think it was spring. The sun is shining bright, gleaming off the white-barked sycamores; the sky is oceanic blue with only a few puffy white clouds like scattered cotton balls. But those vernal looks are deceiving…in fact it's only a degree or so above freezing with a rather cutting wind. Spring-like in appearance only.
On the positive side, several small clumps of orange crocus are in bloom along the south-facing side of the cottage. At least they've poked up above the soil, though their petals still remain tightly wrapped like tiny umbrellas. But I have no doubt they'll unfurl their blooms later today once the sun warms things up a tad.
One of these patches actually began blooming a couple of days ago—my first yard flowers of the year. I have lots of other crocus planted around the cottage, in a variety of hues—purple, lavender, white, yellow—but the orange ones always lead the pack when it comes to showing welcome color.
Up the road, deep yellow winter aconites are beginning to carpet a certain woodsy glade amid a few patches of lingering snow. They, too, have been blooming—a few, anyway—for about a week. Aconites come early and are one of my favorite harbingers.
Leaf buds on my lilacs are swelling, though they're certainly not nearly as advanced in development as they were this time last year. But then, no two years are ever truly alike.
Seasons set their own reality, following their own agenda, coming and going by their own timeline. Nevertheless, spring is definitely on the way…or definitely here, if you prefer the encouraging sanction of today's decree.
Late in the day, when the westering sun is just starting to angle down through river's overhanging tangle of sycamores, while the evening light is still strong and warm, the resident pair of Canada geese who usually call the downstream section below the Cottage Pool home, often decided they'll head somewhere upstream before nightfall.
As usual, the male leads the way. But before taking wing for their journey, they pause at the bottom edge of the big riffle. While the female paddles in tight circles about the upper end of the pool, the gander lodges himself smack at the edge of the riffle's rocks where the fast, tumbling current merges with the pool's quiet surface. Sometimes he can't hold himself against the flow and has to readjust his position, jamming his breast in one churning pocket between the rocks after another, until he finds that perfect place to wedge himself against the turbulence.
At this point, grounded as best he can manage, his raises his body, extends his long neck, and peers upstream—head turning this way and that like a periscope on a submarine, sharp eyes scrutinizing every inch of water, rocks, bushes, trees, and sky ahead, looking for the lest hint of danger in their quarter-mile flight path from the here to the bend. This intense and careful reconnoitering takes several long minutes, but he never rushes.
Finally, satisfied that he and missus will be safe, he honks his intentions, says "Follow me!" and lifts off…a huge, lovely, powerful bird, caught between water and sky, back feathers turned golden by the waning sun. And after only the briefest hesitation, his mate follows.
Sunrise was lovely this morning—the light strong and rich, golden as the jars of wildflower honey my uncle used to bring us from his bees which he kept in hives at the back of his garden down on the mysterious Green River. Inspiring. Enough that I made this shot of the river…enough that a merry song sparrow was moved to fill the air with his cheery notes.
Of course it could be well argued that any morning—golden-washed sunrise and birdsong-filled or not—ought to be counted lovely, given that no guarantees were handed out when we turned in the night before that we'd be among those waking up to check things out.
Days are life's blessing—a bit more allotted time to look around and appreciate the gift.
Seeing as how it's Valentine's Day and all, I'll keep this brief and simply let the photo do most of the talking.
I hadn't been paying attention to the weather news, and such a blizzardy snowstorm late this afternoon came as quite a surprise…something like 3 inches in not much over an hour. Doubtless it's really snarled traffic and spoiled more than a few romantic evening plans.
Not ours, however. Myladylove and I had already planned dinner by the fireside—which I have ready. Don't know about the ducks, though.